THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ AUG 2023
Join us for a monthly online meditation and sohbet with Shaikh Kabir and Camille, and special guests from the Threshold community. Held on the 1st Sunday of every month at 12pm Eastern Time (5pm UK).
Zoom meeting: https://zoom.us/j/435138208
Zoom passcode: threshold
Watch last month's meeting below and see all our videos here.
True Adab (spiritual courtesy) is not a set of rules, but innocent awareness.
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Reflections on the July theme: In this life every soul has its assigned homework. Do you know yours?
~ Umair Sami [Islamabad, Pakistan]
When first presented with this question I was struggling to understand its intended meaning. Does it mean the homework of my individual soul? Or human souls in general? As I got over fears of everyone discovering how badly I write about the little that I know of Sufi metaphysics, insights started to arrive.
Let’s revisit what we mean by soul. Our teachers define soul as the “part of our self that is connected to spirit”. The spirit being “the primary manifestation of the Absolute” within us. The soul can be “developed and spiritualised” (The Mysterion). Homework is something I do in one domain that enables me to receive more in another. Something done on our part before a teacher can offer more, before we are able to receive more.
So what is the homework of my soul? Enshrined within my soul is the primordial covenant that naturally draws soul to spirit; “I” just need to get out of the way. I need to identify and remove whatever is in the way of my soul’s journey. For this I need to know myself. As we are often reminded on the path, “He who knows himself knows his lord” (hadith). I know that I am easily distracted by the world, pulled into trivialities by the lower self. This becomes a blockage in the development and spiritualisation of my soul. But I can’t confront the ego directly, ego can’t purify ego, dirty water can’t wash away our dirt. If I try to deny emotions and desires that seem "wrong" and force the ego to avoid something, my ego starts to act out in other places. Or like a child acting out, it tries to sabotage my every aspiration. I need to draw from a different realm, another state of consciousness is needed as remedy.
Practices handed down from generations going back to our saints and prophets help us get to those higher states of consciousness where spirit inspires soul. Meditation, prayer, zikr and turning are some of the practices that help bring me back to my essential self. My soul’s homework then is to protect, reserve and avail pockets of time, to punctuate my day with periods where I step out of the world and on to the prayer mat, to turn away from the self and turn to the Beloved, the One who turns us. The delight felt in ritual prayer…
The practice of muhasaba is another way in which I learn to know myself in order to know my Sustainer. For example, I have a tendency to always read and seek more knowledge. Like Ibrahim Adham who travelled far and wide to finally find the stone under which would be revealed the answer to his seeking. It read: “You do not practice what you know; why do you seek what you do not know?” (Ali Hujwiri, Kashf Al Mahjoob). My homework is to set sincere intentions based on what I know, and then diligently practice it to develop himmah, because will begets will, and God increases His guidance to those who follow guidance (19:76).
At times I over-eagerly exert myself in ascetic practice and ego denial. At such times my homework is to remember that there is no need to force anything. The Mevelevi way is the path of love; Suleman Dede was known to our teachers as "a master of love." Through love, the ego willingly eases, and gradually becomes subservient to spirit. The soul becomes spiritualised and we become "soulful." My homework is to ask for that love, to receive, amplify and spread it through my being as I whirl through the world.
The command come against your will
is for the blind follower of religion.
Come willingly is for the sincere.
The former loves God for something else,
while the sincere one has a pure, real love.
The former loves the Nurse,
but for the sake of the milk,
while the other has given his heart
for the sake of the Nurse Herself.
The child is blind to Her Beauty—
he just wants milk,
while the other is truly the lover of the Nurse—
single-mindedly, passionately in love.
[Mathnawi III: 4590-94, The Rumi Daybook]
With all the above homework I go astray if I try to “do” this myself because I am not the real doer. Anything originating from the ego-self will fail. While drawing from the divine realm, everything is possible. My effort is necessary, but like the Bedouin in Mathnawi I who brings a bucket of rainwater to the King, it is nothing next to the oceans of there is not a thing but we have the storehouses there of (15:21). The bucket of water is our homework, but, since it's all we have, it is the key that unlocks rivers of Divine generosity.
So when I am helpless in the face of the ego’s impatience, competition with the world, or seeking the approval of others, I can witness and turn it to the Divine, and trust in the One who knows what to do with it. I can deepen my practice to weaken the clutches of ego. But even this can be a veil so I ask the most Generous to be taken to those higher levels of consciousness where self mingles with spirit and our soulfulness takes shape. Where my soul becomes ready to receive what my Rabb offers in that moment, for every moment. When I am granted this communion, all illusions of guilt, worries and anxieties start to fall away. I am emptied and replenished, restored and energised. Inner and outer noise subsides and a clarity of purpose descends. In this moment all is well again, alhamdulillah. Everything is just as it needs to be. Presence. I can now resume my duties in the world carrying this presence, trusting His work is being made manifest through this soul.
~ Umair is a seeker on the path and an entrepreneur transitioning from dreaming up businesses to dreaming up ideas of creative expression and community building.
The Islamabad Threshold Circle was blessed to have Khadim Chishti lead a three day residential retreat in the hills of Nathiagali. The retreat was called ‘Husn e Kirdar’ ‘Beautiful Character’. We reflected on the qualities which create beautiful character and the Divine attributes which can be invoked to inculcate these qualities within us. We engaged in zikr, illahis, reflection and the Sufi practice of muhasaba (a gentle taking account of one’s thoughts, actions and character). Walking zikr took place against the backdrop of the foothills of the Himalayas. The dervishes experienced transformational moments of beauty and truth. We are so grateful to Khadim for crossing the seven seas to nurture the Islamabad Threshold Circle with her wisdom. We are also indebted to Dede and Ana for gifting us Khadim’s visit.
Bradford Literature Festival
in this breath,
songs of You,
in the Ocean
of Your Grace.
[Ramadan Love Songs, Camille H. A. Helminski]
Meditation is an emptying and a filling. An emptying of our pre-occupations, desires, thoughts and worries; and a receiving of the Divine Breath. We empty and witness without judgement and we are ready to receive what is given.
At the beginning of July, a group of us participated in the Bradford Literature Festival in the UK. Threshold was contributing with two sessions led by Khadim Chishti and Mahmoud Mostafa, the khalifas/deputies of our beloved teachers, Kabir and Camille Helminski. I was tasked to recite a few verses of the Quran during the sema ceremony. I am not always comfortable speaking in public, let alone reciting. I was full of anticipation; I was all nerves.
The first session was a reflection on the Mathnawi through Mevlana Rumi’s poem, "The Guest House." Khadim and Mahmoud explained how, through Mevlana’s words, we learn to welcome every thought that comes across as a guest, with all of its joy and sorrow, lightness and heaviness, and then to gently let it go. We learn to turn and re-turn with every breath, in every moment, bringing us closer to the ever-nearness of our Beloved Rabb, our Sustainer. The second session was a taste of the sema ceremony. Mahmoud and Khadim described the practice, the listening, the turning, the four salaams, the robes worn by the semazens, and the significance of the ecstasy which is contained within the sobriety of the turning that we witness. In between the salaams, there were readings from Mevlana and the Quran, and, close to the end, the recitation of the Quran. The theme holding the readings together was ‘noble character’; a reminder that the teachings of the path are an education of the heart, developing within us a capacity to draw nearer to the Beloved, and in so doing to see the world, and one another, differently.
Hearing this significance and symbolism again and again, has a deep effect on us dervishes. We read and we practice and we do our zhikr, and we are taken into the details and intricacies of life, and sometimes we forget the basics of our path. We forget those instances that drew us near in the first place, when we first witnessed a sema ceremony or took part in a zhikr gathering. The Bradford retreat brought this back to me. With Khadim and Mahmoud’s explanation of the Mathnawi, and Mevlana’s teachings, and the sema, it was back to basics. I was stripped of much of what I had been carrying the past few months at work, in life, in relationship. It was almost like a cleansing.
Sitting in that communal circle, I was transported through the music and the zhikr and the turning of friends. I was taken into the energy of the attentive audience who were also taking part in the ceremony with each breath; taken into a space where, with the rise and fall of the breath, there was a point where I was able to let go of the anxiety, where my breath was no longer consciously mine, where I was able to dissolve into the space which was given, but where I was also very much centered. The Word of God, was coming from somewhere deep within my soul.
To God belong the East and the West, and wherever you turn, there is the Face of God.
… He/She is the Originator of the heavens and the earth; and when He/She wills a thing to be, He/She but says to it, “Be!”—and it is.
[Surah al-Baqarah 2:115-17]
The weekend in Bradford was a delicious retreat. It was inspiring and nourishing and touched the core of my being. We were a small group of friends traveling together in a tender caravan of beauty and love, and our conversations in between the sessions were sustenance. Besides the treat of being in the presence of our dear teachers Khadim and Mahmoud, we had the opportunity to attend talks of authors who had translated the Mathnawi of Mevlana Rumi or written about Islamic history. Their insights were refreshing. We also attended a qawwali performance, by renowned Sufi chanters from Pakistan, which went on for hours. Even as many of us did not know the language or could not understand the words, we were all transported. Taken in by the love and energy in the hall. The breath of the Beloved. Love had no barrier.
The Threshold Society, rooted within the traditions of Sufism and inspired by the life and work of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi, is a non-profit educational foundation with the purpose of facilitating the experience of Divine Unity, Love, and Truth in the world. Sufism is a living tradition of human transformation through love and higher consciousness. Our fundamental framework is classical Sufism and the Qur’an as it has been understood over the centuries by the great Sufis. The Society is affiliated with the Mevlevi Order, and offers training programs, seminars and retreats around the world.
Each month we intend to highlight an article about our lineage and its principles. This month we offer: Practical Aspects of Dervishood
Practical Aspects of Dervishood
by Mahmoud Mostafa
For me, dervishhood is a total commitment to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet, Mevlana Rumi, Shams, and all the blessed ones who traveled the way of love. There are many aspects to this following and over the years it has been shown to me that the sincerity of commitment to this path is manifest in knowing that one is a servant and living one’s life in this truth. What are the practical aspects of this way of living? For me there are several dimensions, there is a state of being, an active practice, a quality of self-reflection and self-knowing, and a way of conduct in daily life.
1st Sunday of every month: Online Meditation, more details (KC)
Aug 18-21: UK Annual Retreat at Broughton Sanctuary, fully booked (K)
Feb 23-25, 2024: Retreat with Kabir & Camille, San Damiano, Danville, California (KC)
Events with Kabir (K) & Camille (C)
1288 Cherokee Rd Louisville, KY 40204
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